Researchers a step closer to stretchable electronics?

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Researchers at North Carolina State University claim to have created the first coils of silicon nanowire on a substrate that can be stretched to more than double their original length, a move they say could bring us closer to incorporating stretchable electronic devices into a host of different applications.

"Our idea was to create electronic materials that can be tailored into coils to improve their stretchability, without harming the electric functionality of the materials," said Dr Yong Zhu, one of the researchers at NC State. The scientists put a rubber substrate under strain and used specific levels of ultraviolet radiation and ozone to change its mechanical properties. They then placed silicon nanowires on top of the substrate which formed coils upon release of the strain. Although other researchers have previously been able to create coils using freestanding nanowires, Zhu claims this is the first time anyone has been able to directly integrate coils on a stretchable substrate. While the new coils' mechanical properties allow them to be stretched an additional 104% beyond their original length, their electric performance cannot hold reliably to such a large range, something Zhu puts down to factors such as contact resistance change or electrode failure. "We are working to improve the reliability of the electrical performance when the coils are stretched to the limit of their mechanical stretchability," he noted. "Which is likely to be well beyond 100%."